From Anarchy In Action

The Mondragon Corporation is a federation of 147 worker cooperatives, with a total of 80,000 workers, based in the Basque country. Founded in 1956, Mondragon focuses on industry, commerce, finance, and services. Workers own a share of their company, elect their managers, and participate in all major decisions. The most highly paid employee is only allowed to make 6.5 times more than the lowest paid. [1]

From Peter Gelderloos, Anarchy Works:

In Euskal Herria, the Basque country occupied by the states of Spain and France, a large complex of cooperative, worker-owned businesses has arisen, centered around the small city of Mondragón. Starting with 23 workers in one cooperative in 1956, the Mondragón cooperatives included 19,500 workers in over 100 cooperatives by 1986, surviving despite the heavy recession in Spain at the time and with a survival rate many times better than the average for capitalist firms.

Mondragón has had a rich experience over many years in manufacturing products as varied as furniture, kitchen equipment, machine tools, and electronic components and in printing, shipbuilding, and metal smelting. Mondragón has created hybrid cooperatives composed of both consumers and workers and of farmers and workers. The complex has developed its own social security cooperative and a cooperative bank that is growing more rapidly than any other bank in the Basque provinces. [2]

The highest authority in the Mondragón cooperatives is the general assembly, with each worker-member getting one vote; the specific management of the cooperative is carried out by an elected governing council, which is advised by a management council and a social council.

There are also many criticisms of the Mondragón complex. To anarchists it comes as no surprise that a democratic structure can house an elite group, and according to Mondragón’s critics this is exactly what has happened as the cooperative complex seeks — and achieves — success within a capitalist economy. Although their accomplishment is impressive and gives lie to the assumption that large industries must be organized hierarchically, the compulsion to be profitable and competitive has pushed the cooperatives to manage their own exploitation. For example, after decades of sticking by their egalitarian founding principles regarding pay scales, eventually the Mondragón cooperatives decided to increase the salaries of the managerial and technical experts relative to the manual workers. Their reason was that they had a hard time retaining people who could receive much higher pay for their skills in a corporation. This problem indicates a need to mix manual and intellectual tasks to avoid the professionalization of expertise (i.e. creating expertise as a quality restricted to an elite few); and to build an economy in which people are producing not for profit but for other members of the network, so money loses its importance and people work out of a sense of community and solidarity.

  1. Vincnent Navarro. "The Case of Mondragon." Counterpunch. 30 April 2014.
  2. William Foote Whyte and Kathleen King Whyte, Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of the Worker Cooperative Complex, Ithaca, New York: ILR Press, 1988, p. 5.